Just ahead of World Otter Day on May 25, Defenders of Wildlife and Sea Otter Savvy are celebrating the passage of a resolution in the California Legislature recognizing the 20th anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week. Assembly Concurrent Resolution 169 (ACR 169), authored and introduced by California Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-29) and coauthored by state Senator John Laird (D-17), highlights two decades of collaboration by numerous nonprofit organizations and state and federal agencies in support of sea otter conservation and coastal habitat protection. Sea Otter Awareness Week will run September 18-24.
“We are grateful to Assemblymember Stone and Senator Laird for recognizing the impact that Sea Otter Awareness Week has had on educating the public about these intrepid critters over the past two decades,” said Andy Johnson, California representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “It is important to raise awareness of just how critical sea otters are to shaping and maintaining the ecosystems of the California coast and why efforts to recover the species are so vital.”
The fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries nearly drove California’s sea otter population to extinction. Ongoing conservation efforts are helping the species recover; however, sea otters continue to face challenges in populated coastal areas where pollution and disturbance from human recreational activities negatively impact their habitat and overall well-being.
According to Gena Bentall, director and senior scientist at Sea Otter Savvy, “As they recover from near extinction at our hands, it is time to redefine our coexistence with sea otters. A new paradigm that is founded not just in sea otters adapting to us, but a mutual coexistence that grows from awareness and respect. This is the essence of Sea Otter Awareness Week for me.”
Each year for Sea Otter Awareness Week, Defenders of Wildlife, Sea Otter Savvy and many other partners including California State Parks, Monterey Bay Aquarium, state and federal agencies, and dozens of zoos and aquariums, organize a wide range of events and activities aimed at making the sea otter better known as an indicator of coastal ecosystem health. Sea otters bring vitality, resilience and diversity to nearshore habitats, such as kelp forests and estuaries. A struggling sea otter population often signals imbalances within those habitats.
“It is fitting that ACR 169 passed in May, just as biologists are conducting the annual spring sea otter census, which provides a baseline indication of how the sea otter population is doing,” said Johnson. “Sea otter numbers have stagnated in recent years, so we’re hoping to tally an increase in pups and adults. And World Otter Day is on May 25.”
California taxpayers can help sea otters by donating to the California Sea Otter Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund on line 410 when filing their California Resident Income Tax Return. Since 2006, taxpayers have contributed over $4 million to support recovery efforts.